If We're Going To Fix Copyright, We Need Much More Transparency

from the a-necessary-factor dept

Glyn already covered European Parliament Member (and the EU Parliament’s only Pirate Party representative) Julia Reda’s report on copyright reform in the EU. However, for Day 3 of Copyright Week — which is all about transparency, I wanted to focus on the other aspect of Reda’s release of her report: just how transparent she’s been. When we talk about transparency in copyright law, we’re often talking about the lack of such transparency, often via international trade negotiations, like ACTA, TPP and TAFTA/TTIP, in which backroom dealing is done by unelected bureaucrats. The public is kept out of the negotiating process entirely, while lobbyists have full access. Combine that with the revolving door between the negotiators and the lobbyists themselves, and it’s a recipe for non-transparent policy-making by which legacy industries get all the “gifts” they want.

Reda’s approach with her report on copyright shows that it doesn’t need to be that way. Along with the report, she detailed all of the 86 meeting requests she received from lobbyists regarding copyright (noting that the number went way up after she was appointed to write this report):

She also noted that she really wanted to “balance out the attention paid to various interest groups” and that she really wanted to speak to content creators directly, rather than middlemen:

Most requests came from publishers, distributors, collective rights organizations, service providers and intermediaries (57% altogether), while it was more difficult to get directly to the group most often referred to in public debate: The authors. The results of the copyright consultation with many authors? responses demonstrate that the interests of collecting societies and individual authors can differ significantly.

The end result:

Meetings requested
RightholdersAuthorsAuthoritiesService providersAcademiaUsers Meetings taken

She also includes a list of every lobbying meeting request she received on copyright:

This is great to see, and it would be nice to see others working on these issues post similar things. A few years ago, I noticed that while the USTR’s FOIA website has a page for visitor logs, that page is conveniently left blank:
After many months of back and forth, the USTR finally sent me visitor logs in an almost entirely unusable manner. Here’s one of the many documents that were sent:

Compare and contrast the two situations. One appears to be representative government. The other seems to be doing everything possible to hide what’s really going on when it comes to important things like understanding who’s influencing copyright policy.

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Comments on “If We're Going To Fix Copyright, We Need Much More Transparency”

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9 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

If that’s really the only record of who showed up when to the USTR, I think it’s pretty clear that they have absolutely no interest in properly tracking just who’s been visiting them, likely for plausible deniability reasons.

‘Has Person X from Company/Lobby group Y ever visited us? Well I can’t seem to remember, and unfortunately the logs aren’t exactly the best for finding those things out, so I just can’t say for sure.’

Theodora Michaels (user link) says:

Where “Purpose of Visit” is listed as “credit union,” “CU,” or “bank” does that mean they just stopped by to use an ATM in the building, or something along those lines? If so, we didn’t miss out on much by USTR’s reluctance to make this public. But of course they should still keep records and be transparent about substantive visits at least.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I can see this. At work I often enter buildings where I need to sign in and out of visitor logs like that, and the “purpose” field is almost always filled with some BS like that. You have to write something there, but you also want to get it done quickly, so people usually just have some stock abbreviation or one-word answer they put regardless of the actual purpose of the visit. I usually put “meeting”.

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